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Published: 2013/12/02

Birds of a Feather: Artists Reflect on Phish

Eric Gould (Particle)

They created a world within this world. People felt welcome and inspired; they could really live a happy life within this world. Phish have done so many different things. Everything from covering albums to playing through the night; playing clubs through arenas and theaters of all different sorts. When people go out on Phish tour, they are going on one of the last great American adventures.

On his favorite live Phish memory:

Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center 1995. They did a second set that was basically just “Tweezer.” They weren’t segueing into different songs—it was just “Tweezer” improve the entire time. It wasn’t the most dance friendly music out there, but it really took you on a journey. That’s a big part of what I love about this band. In the middle of all this they went into a “My Generation” jam by The Who. It was really psychedelic in a bluegrass sort of way. It was breaking new ground, taking something that everybody knew and putting a new twist on it. People recognized it, but at the same time it existed on a completely different plane.

Ben Kaufman (Yonder Mountain String Band)

I gave up playing music. My bass guru died and I didn’t want to play it anymore. It sucked. Every time I thought about it, I felt pain. I didn’t want to do it. I went to film school in NYC and realized I didn’t want to do that anymore. Right about that time, I heard of a band called Phish. I felt love in my heart for music again. I don’t know if it was because it felt like there were four dorky guys up there letting it hang out. I don’t know if it was because it appealed to a crafty, technical element too. But there was a joy that I felt from them, and in a joy in my heart. I went, “I want to do this again.” I have to do this again. I quit film school. I moved to Colorado. I started playing music. I met these guys. If I hadn’t heard that band that would not have happened, I’m sure.

James Valentine (Maroon 5)

I saw Phish live for the first time in Lincoln, NE in 1996. It blew my mind. Trey played guitar exactly the way I wanted to, they way he synthesized all of his disparate influences but still had his own clearly definable sound, was amazing to listen to. Within two notes of hearing him play, you know it’s Trey. How many guitarists have that unique of a sound? After seeing them for the first time, I tried hard to emulate his sound, but playing a hollow body guitar with an Ibanez tube screamer. I was one of thousands of the Trey wannabe’s that now litter the jamband scene, a testament to his tremendous influence. In fact, after the first time I saw Kara’s Flowers (which would become Maroon 5 after I joined) I met Adam Levine and asked, “You listen to Trey don’t you?”

Adam Levine (Maroon 5)

Phish made me want to be a better musician, plain and simple. They taught me so much and I will always consider Trey to be one of my heroes. His playing is just so boundary-less and his sound is so unmistakable. Years ago I would just sit in my car and marvel at how four people could be so fucking connected to each other in a way that I can only aspire to be with my band. People are always shocked to find out that I’m so into Phish, which I find strange only because I feel like this band has fought so hard to not alienate anyone who’s wanted to join them. I get it. I get Phish and though I’m sad to seem them go [in 2004], I will always have deep respect and such fond memories of the amazing musical feats they reached, some of them right in front of me.

Keller Williams

Phish are leaving behind a bunch of open-minded kids who will now be looking for different places for their summer travels [when they parted ways in 2004]. Also thousand and thousands and perhaps millions, of memories and life changing experiences that were shared by these beautiful people. They were indeed trailblazers in the scene of improvisational freedom and along their journey have created a sound that has become a genre of its own: for example, “ that sounds like Phish.”

Jamie Masefield (Jazz Mandolin Project)

For a long period of time, when they were just getting started, Phish sounded like a lot of college bands. I remember when they went on their first major tour and came back to Burlington to play the bandstand in Battery Park. When I came down to hear them I noticed a real change in what they sounded like. They had matured and their music was quite powerful. They were going to a new level and I realized their clarity. I remember they played “Oh Kee Pa,” they really impressed me. They took something that could have been really corny and made it really powerful.

As more and more time goes on, we are going to realize that they were a defining sound for the 1990’s. Phish became the sound for a whole generation of people. It’s still amazing that one band can put on a festival for 70,000 people. I remember when they played my dorm, Slade Hall, in 1984. They were very excited about their big gig playing our basement. It took them two or three days to set up for this show, placing a hodgepodge of speakers all over the place. They soundchecked for days.

Adam Herz ( American Pie creator)

At one point or another, every Pie script had a Phish reference in it. But all the noticeable ones fell out during the filming process. But I still listen to Phish all the time.

Al Schnier (moe.)

My favorite Phish memory has to be their afternoon set with the Giant Country Horns at the Arrowhead Ranch in the Catskills during the summer of ’91. It was just one of those perfect hot afternoons in the sun. The band was canking and the horns were over the top.

Harris Wittles ( Parks and Rec )

My first show was September 25, ‘99 in at the Woodlands in Houston. I was literally a fan since that night. It was the most amazing concert experience of my life. It wasn’t even that great of a show but even a regular Phish show especially pre-hiatus is gonna be better than anything else you see. I revisit it pretty frequently, less frequently now especially since Live Phish is available, now so I just listen to shows from the current tour, when I have time to listen to whole shows. But it was great, I remember the moment “Bowie” reshaped my opinion on what music could be

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